Fallout 76 PvP starts "like slapping somebody in a bar" but punishes straight-up murder

Fallout 76 will take a novel approach to player-vs-player conflict, according to new information revealed at a QuakeCon 2018 panel on Saturday. In an online world full of potential assholes, just blowing up another player from a mile away doesn't sound like good fun for everybody involved. So instead, Bethesda's making starting a fight in Fallout 76 more like looking someone in the eye and slapping them. No, really.

"When you shoot somebody, you do a little bit of damage. It isn't full damage. It's like slapping somebody in a bar. 'You wanna fight?'" game director Todd Howard explained. "So you do little bits of damage. If you engage, then you're doing full damage." Oh, quick note before we go into more detail: players below level 5 can't participate in PvP at all, so don't plan on camping around the entrance to Vault 76 and mowing down newbies like in the intro to Fallout 2.

Think of Fallout 76 PvP like challenging somebody to a duel by peppering them with BB pellets. If the other person accepts by attacking you back, the full PvP system kicks in and your attacks become deadlier (though the power curve is flattened some to give less powerful players a fighting chance). Whoever wins the fight receives a cap reward determined by their level difference and is also entitled to loot the loser's Junk. That's Junk with a capital J - tin, screws, metal, all the mundane materials you use to build new stuff back at base. More intrinsically valuable items like armor and weapons are never up for grabs.

Once the loser respawns (it's free to revive at the closest discovered point of interest, or back at Vault 76) they'll have the option to go for revenge, doubling their potential cap reward. All this is assuming both sides accept the proverbial slap-challenge by slapping back, which won't always be the case. And don't worry, you can prevent accidental-slap-damage by enabling "pacifist mode."

"The player that kills somebody that didn't want to engage in it then becomes a wanted murderer," Howard said. "They get no reward. You get no caps, you get no XP, you get nothing for becoming a wanted murderer except the social incentives people have online to be assholes."

Being a wanted murderer in Fallout 76 means you show up on everybody else's map as a big, red star, but your map stops displaying other players' locations (you can normally see the rough position of anyone who isn't sneaking). Anybody who manages to kill you will receive a substantial bounty taken from your own cap pool. And your victim/anybody else who decides you're a toxic jerk can ignore you, which will block your communications and remove your locations from each other's respective maps.

Speaking of communication and potential griefing, Fallout 76 will include area voice chat with local players, on top of voice chat with your squad. You can opt in or out of voice chat at any time. All this is to say that Fallout 76 is dealing with some very old problems in a few interesting new ways - hopefully they work out! And if not, well, that's what the Fallout 76 beta's for.

Check out how Fallout 76 character creation, customization, and advancement work for more details from QuakeCon 2018. 

Connor Sheridan

I got a BA in journalism from Central Michigan University - though the best education I received there was from CM Life, its student-run newspaper. Long before that, I started pursuing my degree in video games by bugging my older brother to let me play Zelda on the Super Nintendo. I've previously been a news intern for GameSpot, a news writer for CVG, and now I'm a staff writer here at GamesRadar.